"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
"Tell me about a time when you've worked with a difficult co-worker."
"What is your biggest weakness?"
Anybody who has been on a job interview is ready for those questions. They are common and boring and probably not all that helpful in sussing out who will be the best person for the job.
But some managers go above and beyond in creativity when interviewing. Unfortunately, creative doesn't always mean awesome.
Here are some real questions, asked in job interviews that you probably shouldn't put in your repertoire.
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From Wall Street Oasis
- If you were stuck in an elevator, with no way to get out, and every 30 seconds a 5th grader would fall through a ceiling tile of the elevator that would periodically open, and was programmed to kill you, how long would you last and how?
- If teleportation was invented tomorrow, how would it affect the markets?
- Show me where on your body you can hide this jumbo sharpie.
- How would you design a spice cabinet for a blind person if you couldn't use braille?
- If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?
- Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
- Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?
- If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?
From Fast Company
- What was the last gift you gave someone?
- What's the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
- How many pennies would fit into this room?
- Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?7
- What's your favorite drink?
- What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
- How many gas stations would you say there are in the United States?
- Who do you like best, your mom or dad?
Some of these questions are fun and spark conversation. Others are just weird. None should be used routinely in job interviews. Why is that? You're not hiring a best friend and unless you're hiring someone to stock your company refrigerator, what is in their refrigerator at home doesn't matter one bit.
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And, really, even if you are hiring someone to stock your company refrigerator, knowing what is in their fridge at home is still irrelevant. If I was stocking a break room fridge, it would have lots of drinks and yogurts and fresh fruit, but certainly, no eggs or weird stinky cheese that my husband loves.
Just what type of questions should you ask in a job interview? Here are some guidelines:
Will This Question Tell Me More About How the Person Will Do This Job?
If you can't identify what the right answer to this question would be, don't ask it. Not to say that you need an exact answer, but you should be able to identify a good and bad answer. Some people use this logic to justify questions like how many pennies would fit into a room, but why are you asking that? If you want to test their math skills, ask them a math question relevant to the actual job. If you want to know how they use logic to solve a problem, ask them to explain how they would figure out how many pennies would fit in the room.
Will This Question Tell Me About Cultural Fit?
Remember, cultural fit is important, but not the most important thing. You need someone who can do the job. Most people will self-select out if you explain what the culture is like in your business, and it doesn't fit their personality. So, instead of asking things to try to get into their psyche, just say, "We're a casual workplace. People come and go as they like, but it's expected that you'll check your email constantly even at 10 p.m." Or "We're very strict about work hours. We also are very hierarchical, so people don't mix between levels."
Remember, great interviewing skills don't necessarily translate to great work skills. Does your accounts payable person need to be a sparkling conversationalist? Sure, your PR manager does, but not your copy editor. Don't use cultural fit as a way to discriminate against people who have different backgrounds than yours or who are on the autism spectrum. The main question is, could they do the job?
Will This Question Help Me Understand Someone's Actual Skills?
Can you run program X? That's a common but bad question, as someone might say yes when they've only used it as an end user and can't do anything more than press "run". A better question is, "Tell me how you would do A, B, and C in program X." That helps you figure out their actual skill level.
Is This Question Designed to Be Clever?
Clever is good for parties, but not for job interviews. Clever is to make the question asker look smart. That's not your goal when you're interviewing someone. You want to ask questions that bring out the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the candidate, not show off your wit.
When in doubt, stick to the boring interview questions. The interview may not be something you talk about at dinner parties, but you'll get the right person for the job.